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Moderated a discussion on household budgets for older people in Singapore, 22 May 2019

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

Ng Kok Hoe, Teo You Yenn, Neo Yu Wei, and Adlina Maulod present and discuss their research. How much income does an older person need each month for a basic standard of living in Singapore? While income security is a major goal in social policy, there has been no precise benchmark of how much people need to live adequately in Singapore. This study establishes the budgets that older adults need for a basic standard of living, through consensual focus groups where ordinary members of public deliberate and agree on the things required for people to meet their physical, emotional and social participation needs. Methodologically, the study takes reference from active and ongoing research on budget standards across the advanced welfare states, and adopts a procedure pioneered in the United Kingdom which has since been applied in France, Portugal, Mexico, South Africa and Japan. It contributes to debates on minimum incomes and growing interest in participatory approaches to research and policymaking. In the context of Singapore, the findings provide an explicit empirical basis for assessing current modes of income provision amidst concern about poverty and inequality. They can inform the development of social services and policies by highlighting the relationship between meeting material needs and social inclusion. They also raise questions about the sustainability of a welfare system that still relies heavily on family support even as the population ages rapidly – a challenge that Singapore shares with other societies in East Asia.

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